Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bonus Questions

As promised, here’s an extra day of Friday Questions. Keep ‘em coming.

Marianne has been patiently waiting. She’s up first.

I was just wondering why it wasn't until the later seasons that Cheers decided to film teasers in front of the actual bar in Boston? Also, were those scenes filmed in one hit or did the actors regularly go to and from Boston?

A large factor was the budget. Once the series got into the later years and Paramount knew it would go into syndication and become a cash cow there was more money to spend.

When CHEERS hit 200 episodes we all went to Boston to celebrate. There was a big parade. It was like following around the Beatles. But since we had the whole cast it seemed very convenient to shoot those teasers. Yes, we shot them all in a couple of days. Even got then-governor Michael Dukakis to do one. We were hoping to spin him off into his own series but it never came about.

Chris asks:

Have you ever worked on a show that didn't have a writer's room? If you did, how did you find the system to be?

Personally, no. I was asked once to take over as showrunner for a sitcom where the staff was sent off to their own offices to write jokes for the rewrite and the showrunner would then select the ones he wanted. We said we couldn’t work that way and declined the offer.

There was no writing room on SEINFELD. The staff would work one-to-one with Larry David on their scripts and then he and Jerry would rewrite.  One of the writers, Fred Stoller, wrote a terrific account of his year on SEINFELD.  You can buy it here

At the end of the day, it’s whatever works. Oh wait, I shouldn’t use that expression. WHATEVER WORKS was the name of that horrible Woody Allen movie starring Larry David. Sorry for bringing it up, Larry.

From Ally:

You said that directing with Jamie Widdoes crew was like driving a Porsche. Why? Obviously technical skill is important for any crewmember, but what are some of the intangibles that make a good crew? When you are the show runner, what do you look for when hiring your dream crew?

You look for crewmembers who take pride in what they do and excel at their craft. Ideally, you want crewmembers who offer more than just what is asked. There may be a tough shot to get. The cameraman has only a few seconds to get into position. Some will say it’s too tough and others will say, “I’ll get there. Don’t worry.” Those are the guys you want.

But the key is this: you need to recognize and appreciate their contributions. Treat them with the respect they richly deserve. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many directors and producers just treat these people like cattle.

I do everything but wash their cars. I love these guys and gals.

And finally, Maria wonders:

Have you ever thought about doing one of those interviews for the Archive of American Television? You seem to have so many interesting stories and insights - it would be fabulous to see you interviewed!

I would LOVE to do one of those. No one has asked me to. And I think it’s a little tacky to call them and say, “Hey, what about me?” But if anyone on the committee is reading this, I’m available. I’m just sitting here in make up.

More Friday Questions tomorrow (it being Friday and all).


Rick Wiedmayer said...

Here is a baseball question for you.

How many bats does the typical player have with him at any time.

Also, when he needs replacements does he just call the manufacturer and say send me some more of my bats and have them delivered to whatever stadium he is playing at next?

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Yea, I could see 'em together: Mr. Laugh-a-minute Michael Dukakis and the always hilarious Faye Dunaway...

Comedy gold.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Treating people like cattle is maybe the biggest mistake anyone in a managerial position makes (aside from sleeping with some of the cattle). It's really stupid. You have to look at people as partners, helping you get to a final product or result. True, a manager (or showrunner) gets to say "No, I want it this way", but it's no reason to view people as interchangeable.

I guess that goes out to all of the would-be managers/leaders reading today.

David said...


If you're "sitting there in makeup" I'm guessing you're wearing a tshirt and were done in 30 seconds?

(See? Some of us read the other entries too...)

chalmers said...

Did the Dukakis connection arise from the governor's stepson, John, an actor who once guested on a Burrows-directed "Taxi" episode?

Of course, Mike's cousin Olympia has done great work for decades. Maybe you could gotten them all together for a "Private Benjamin" type military fish-out-of-water sitcom. "Don't let him get near the tank!"

Johnny Walker said...

"But the key is this: you need to recognize and appreciate their contributions. Treat them with the respect they richly deserve. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many directors and producers just treat these people like cattle."


The difference between being asked to do something challenging by someone who doesn't appreciate it, and by someone who understands how hard it is, is immense. It makes all the difference in the world.

Mitchell McLean said...

Friday question:

I’ve heard that short film scripts are pretty much useless as writing samples. Unfortunately, while I have a sitcom pilot and a couple horror feature scripts under my belt, my best writing is contained in several comedic shorts. I entered one of the shorts in a contest where later rounds are judged by industry professionals.

In the off-chance that someone who reads my comedic short requests additional material, would I be better off sending them a feature in a different genre, a sitcom that I feel is only “okay,” or the shorts that I think represents my best work?

Or am I just screwed?

BQ said...

With all due respect Ken, your idea for a Michael Dukakis show "My Mother the Tank" was rather derivative. Still it seems like a name like Dukakis should be comedy gold. Alas...